Women Advocates for Harvesting Rainwater in Salinity-Affected Coastal Bangladesh

Asia-Pacific, Climate Change, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Environment, Featured, Headlines, Humanitarian Emergencies, Innovation, Natural Resources, TerraViva United Nations

Humanitarian Emergencies

Lalita Roy now has access to clean water and also provides a service to her community by working as a pani apa (water sister), looking after the community's rainwater harvesting plants. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS

Lalita Roy now has access to clean water and also provides a service to her community by working as a pani apa (water sister), looking after the community’s rainwater harvesting plants. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS

KHULNA, Bangladesh, Sep 23 2022 (IPS) – Like many other women in Bangladesh’s salinity-prone coastal region, Lalita Roy had to travel a long distance every day to collect drinking water as there was no fresh water source nearby her locality.


“In the past, there was a scarcity of drinking water. I had to travel one to two kilometers distance each day to bring water,” Roy, a resident of Bajua Union under Dakope Upazila in Khulna, told IPS.

She had to collect water standing in a queue; one water pitcher was not enough to meet her daily household demand.

“We require two pitchers of drinking water per day. I had to spend two hours each day collecting water. So, there were various problems. I had health complications, and I was unable to do household work for lack of time,” she said.

After getting a rainwater harvesting plant from the Gender-response Climate Adaptation (GCA) Project, which is being implemented by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Roy is now collecting drinking water using the rainwater harvesting plant, which makes her life easier.

“I am getting the facilities, and now I can give two more hours to my family… that’s why I benefited,” she added.

Shymoli Boiragi, another beneficiary of Shaheber Abad village under Dakope Upazila, said women in her locality suffered a lot in collecting drinking water in the past because they had to walk one to three kilometers every day to collect water.

“We lost both time and household work. After getting rainwater harvesting plants, we benefited. Now we need not go a long distance to collect water so that we can do more household work,” Boiragi said.

Shymoli revealed that coastal people suffered from various health problems caused by consuming saline water and spent money on collecting the water too.

“But now we are conserving rainwater during the ongoing monsoon and will drink it for the rest of the year,” she added.

THE ROLE OF PANI APAS

With support from the project, rainwater harvesting plants were installed at about 13,300 households under 39 union parishads in Khunla and Satkhira. One pani apa (water sister) has been deployed in every union from the beneficiaries.

Roy, now deployed as a pani apa, said the GCA project conducted a survey on the households needing water plants and selected her as a pani apa for two wards.

“As a pani apa, I have been given various tools. I go to every household two times per month. I clean up their water tanks (rainwater plants) and repair those, if necessary,” he added.

Roy said she provides services for 80 households having rainwater harvesting plants, and if they have any problem with their water tanks, she goes to their houses to repair plants.

“I go to 67 households, which have water plants, one to two times per month to provide maintenance services. If they call me over the cellphone, I also go to their houses,” said Ullashini Roy, another pani apa from Shaheber Abad village.

She said a household gives her Taka 20 per month for her maintenance services while she gets Taka 1,340 (US$ 15) from 67 households, which helps her with family expenses.

Ahoke Kumar Adhikary, regional project manager of the Gender-Response Climate Adaptation Project, said it supported installing rainwater harvesting plants at 13,300 households. Each plant will store 2,000 liters of rainwater in each tank for the dry season.

The water plants need maintenance, which is why the project has employed pani apas for each union parishad (ward or council). They work at a community level on maintenance.

“They provide some services, and we call them pani apas. The work of pani apas is to go to every household and provide the services,” Adhikary said.

He said the pani apas get Taka 20 from every household per month for providing their services, and if they need to replace taps or filters of the water plants, they replace those.

The pani apas charge for the replacements of equipment of the water plants, he added.

NO WATER TO DRINK

The coastal belt of Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable areas to climate change as it is hit hard by cyclones, floods, and storm surges every year, destroying its freshwater sources. The freshwater aquifer is also being affected by salinity due to rising sea levels.

Ullashini Roy said freshwater was unavailable in the coastal region, and people drinking water was scarce.

“The water you are looking at is saline. The underground water is also salty. The people of the region cannot use saline water for drinking and household purposes,” Adhikary said.

Ahmmed Zulfiqar Rahaman, hydrologist and climate change expert at Dhaka-based think-tank Center for Environmental and Geographic Information Services (CEGIS), said if the sea level rises by 50 centimeters by 2050, the surface salinity will reach Gopalganj and Jhalokati districts – 50 km inside the mainland from the coastal belt, accelerating drinking water crisis there.

PUBLIC HEALTH AT RISK

According to a 2019 study, people consuming saline water suffer from various physical problems, including acidity, stomach problems, skin diseases, psychological problems, and hypertension.

It is even being blamed for early marriages because salinity gradually changes girls’ skin color from light to gray.

“There is no sweet water around us. After drinking saline water, we suffered from various waterborne diseases like diarrhea and cholera,” Ullashini said.

Hypertension and high blood pressure are common among coastal people. The study also showed people feel psychological stress caused by having to constantly collect fresh water.

Shymoli said when the stored drinking water runs out in any family; the family members get worried because it’s not easy to collect in the coastal region.

SOLUTIONS TO SALINITY

Rahaman said river water flows rapidly decline in Bangladesh during the dry season, but a solution needs to be found for the coastal area.

The hydrologist suggested a possible solution is building more freshwater reservoirs in the coastal region through proper management of ponds at a community level.

Rahaman said low-cost rainwater harvesting technology should be transferred to the community level so that coastal people can reserve rainwater during the monsoon and use this during the dry season.

He added that the government should provide subsidies for desalinization plants since desalinizing salt water is costly.

IPS UN Bureau Report

  Source

Racism Hurts People and Democracy in Peru

Civil Society, Democracy, Editors’ Choice, Featured, Headlines, Human Rights, Indigenous Rights, TerraViva United Nations

Human Rights

A family from Sachac, a Quechua farming community in the Andes highlands region of Cuzco in southeastern Peru, where Quechua is still the predominant language and where ancestral customs are preserved. When members of these native families move to the cities, they face different forms of racism, despite the fact that 60 percent of the Peruvian population identifies as ‘mestizo’ or mixed-race and 25 percent as a member of an indigenous people. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

A family from Sachac, a Quechua farming community in the Andes highlands region of Cuzco in southeastern Peru, where Quechua is still the predominant language and where ancestral customs are preserved. When members of these native families move to the cities, they face different forms of racism, despite the fact that 60 percent of the Peruvian population identifies as ‘mestizo’ or mixed-race and 25 percent as a member of an indigenous people. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

LIMA, Sep 1 2022 (IPS) – Banning the use of the same bathroom, insults and calling people animals are just a few of the daily forms of racism experienced by people in Peru, a multicultural, multiethnic and multilingual country where various forms of discrimination are intertwined.


“In the houses where I have worked, they have always told me: ‘Teresa, this is the service bathroom, the one you have to use,’ as if they were disgusted that I might use their toilets,” Teresa Mestanza, 56, who has worked as a domestic in Lima since she was a teenager, told IPS.

She was born in a coastal town in the northern department of Lambayeque, where her parents moved from the impoverished neighboring region of Cajamarca, the homeland of current President Pedro Castillo, a rural teacher and trade unionist with indigenous features.

With Quechua indigenous roots, she considers herself to be “mestiza” or mixed-race and believes that her employers treat her differently, making her feel inferior because of the color of her skin.

Sixty percent of the population of this South American country of 33 million people describe themselves as “mestizo”, according to the 2017 National Census, the last one carried out in Peru.

For the first time, the census included questions on ethnic self-identification to provide official data on the indigenous and Afro-Peruvian population in order to develop public policies aimed at closing the inequality gap that affects their rights.

A study by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) ranks Peru as the country with the third largest indigenous population in the region, after Bolivia and Guatemala.

Teresa Mestanza has experienced discriminatory, if not outright humiliating, treatment because of the color of her skin, as a domestic worker in Lima since she arrived as a teenager from a Quechua community in northern coastal Peru. She defines herself as ‘mestiza’ or mixed-race and believes that this is the reason why some of her employers try to "make me feel less of a person." CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

Teresa Mestanza has experienced discriminatory, if not outright humiliating, treatment because of the color of her skin, as a domestic worker in Lima since she arrived as a teenager from a Quechua community in northern coastal Peru. She defines herself as ‘mestiza’ or mixed-race and believes that this is the reason why some of her employers try to “make me feel less of a person.” CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS

Before the invasion by the Spaniards, several native peoples lived in what is now Peru, where the Tahuantinsuyo, the great Inca empire, emerged. At present, there are officially 55 different indigenous peoples, 51 from the Amazon rainforest region and four from the Andes highlands, which preserve their own languages, identities, customs and forms of social organization.

According to the census, a quarter of the population self-identified as indigenous: 22 percent Quechua, two percent Aymara and one percent Amazonian indigenous, while four percent self-identified as Afro-descendant or black.

During the Spanish colonial period, slaves were brought from Africa to do hard labor or work in domestic service. It was not until three decades after independence was declared that the country abolished slavery, in 1854.

Indigenous and Afro-Peruvian populations are historically discriminated against in Peru, in a country with traditionally highly segmented classes. Their needs and demands have not been met by the State despite legal frameworks that seek to guarantee equality and non-discrimination and specific rights for indigenous peoples.

This situation is reflected on a daily level in routine racism, a problem recognized by more than half of the population (52 percent) but assumed as such by only eight percent, according to a national survey conducted by the Ministry of Culture in 2018.

Sofia Carrillo is a journalist, activist and anti-racist feminist and Afro-Peruvian proud of her roots, who has faced racism since childhood and despite this made Forbes Peru's list of the most influential women in the country this year. CREDIT: Amnesty International

Sofia Carrillo is a journalist, activist and anti-racist feminist and Afro-Peruvian proud of her roots, who has faced racism since childhood and despite this made Forbes Peru’s list of the most influential women in the country this year. CREDIT: Amnesty International

“Racism is hushed up because it hurts less”

A journalist, activist, and radio and television host who was chosen by Forbes Peru magazine as one of the 50 most powerful women in the country this year, Sofia Carrillo is an Afro-Peruvian proud of her roots who has faced many obstacles and “no’s” since childhood.

“It was not seen as possible, for example, for me to be a studious girl because I was of African descent, and black people were not seen as intelligent. And that was represented on television and generated a great sense of rebellion in me,” she told IPS in Lima.

Faced with these messages she had only two options. “Either you believe it or you confront the situation and use it as a possibility to show that it is not true. I shouldn’t have to prove myself more than other people, but in a country as racist and as sexist as this one, that was the challenge I took on and what motivated me throughout all the stages of my life,” she said.

In her home racism was not a taboo subject, and was discussed. But this was not the case in the extended family of cousins and aunts and uncles “because it’s better not to be aware of the situation, so it hurts less; it’s a way to protect yourself,” Carrillo said.

“It is not uncommon for people of African descent to even say that they do not feel affected by racism or discrimination, because we have also been taught this in our families: that it will affect you if you identify it, but if you pretend it does not happen, then it is much easier to deal with,” she said.

Her experience as a black woman has included receiving insults since she was a child and sexual harassment in public spaces, in transportation, on the street, “to be looked at as a sexual object, to be dehumanized,” she said.

She has also had to deal with prejudices about her abilities in the workplace. And although she has never stopped raising her voice in protest, it has affected her.

“Now I can admit that it affected my mental health, it led to periods of deep depression. I did not understand why, what the reasons were, because you also try to hide it, you try to bury it deep inside. But I understood that one way to heal was to talk about my own experiences,” Carrillo said.

Enrique Anpay is 24 years old and finished his university studies in Lima last year, where he experienced episodes of racism that still hurt him to remember. In the picture he is seen carrying one of his grandmother's lambs in the Quechua farming community of Pomacocha, where he is from, in the central Andean region of Peru. CREDIT: Courtesy of Enrique Anpay

Enrique Anpay is 24 years old and finished his university studies in Lima last year, where he experienced episodes of racism that still hurt him to remember. In the picture he is seen carrying one of his grandmother’s lambs in the Quechua farming community of Pomacocha, where he is from, in the central Andean region of Peru. CREDIT: Courtesy of Enrique Anpay

Racism to the point of calling people animals

Enrique Anpay Laupa, 24, studied psychology at a university in Lima, thanks to the government scholarship program Beca 18, which helps high-achieving students living in poverty or extreme poverty.

Originally from the rural community of Pomacocha, made up of some 90 native Quechua families in the central Andes highlands region of Apurimac, he still finds it difficult to talk about the racism he endured during his time in Lima, until he graduated last year.

He spoke to IPS from the town of Andahuaylas, in Apurímac, where he now lives and practices as a psychologist. “In 2017 we were 200 scholarship holders entering the university, more than other years, and we noticed discomfort among the students from Lima,” he said.

“They said that since we arrived the bathrooms were dirtier, things were getting lost, like laptops…I was quite shocked, it was a question of skin color,” he said.

During a group project, a student from the capital even told him “shut up, llama” when he made a comment. (The llama is a domesticated South American camelid native to the Andes region of Peru.)

“I kept silent and no one else said anything either,” Anpay said. Although he preferred not to go into more details, the experience of what he went through kept him from encouraging his younger brother to apply for Beca 18 and to push him to study instead at the public university in Andahuaylas.

Afro-Peruvian women participate in a festive demonstration demanding respect for their rights, on the streets of Lima on International Women's Day, March 8, 2022. CREDIT: Courtesy of Lupita Sanchez

Afro-Peruvian women participate in a festive demonstration demanding respect for their rights, on the streets of Lima on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2022. CREDIT: Courtesy of Lupita Sanchez

Racism affects the whole country

Racism is felt as a personal experience but affects whole communities and the entire country.

Carrillo said: “We can see this in the levels of impoverishment: the last census, from 2017, indicates that 16 percent of people who self-identify as ‘white’ and ‘mestizo’ live in poverty as opposed to the Afro-Peruvian population, where poverty stands at around 30 percent, the Amazonian indigenous population (40 percent) and the Andean indigenous population (30 percent).”

A study by the National Institute of Statistics and Informatics on the evolution of poverty between 2010 and 2021 showed that it affected to the greatest extent the population who spoke a native mother tongue, i.e. indigenous people.

The percentage of this segment of the population living in poverty and extreme poverty was 32 percent – eight percentage points higher than the 24 percent recorded for the population whose mother tongue is Spanish.

Carrillo considered it essential to recognize the existence of institutional racism, to understand it as a public problem that affects individuals and peoples who have been historically discriminated against and excluded, who have the right to share all spaces and to fully realize themselves, based on the principles of equality and non-discrimination.

She criticized the authorities for thinking about racism only in terms of punitive actions instead of considering a comprehensive policy based on prevention to stop it from being reproduced and handed down from generation to generation, which would include an anti-racist education that values the contribution made by each of the different peoples in the construction of Peru.

  Source

The Price of Bukele’s State of Emergency in El Salvador

Civil Society, Crime & Justice, Editors’ Choice, Featured, Headlines, Human Rights, Latin America & the Caribbean, Regional Categories

Human Rights

A group of alleged gang members is presented to the media by police authorities in El Salvador on Jul. 20 as a demonstration of the effectiveness of the war against gangs waged in this Central American country under a state of emergency. But families of detainees and human rights organizations warn that in many cases they have no links to criminal organizations. CREDIT: National Civil Police

A group of alleged gang members is presented to the media by police authorities in El Salvador on Jul. 20 as a demonstration of the effectiveness of the war against gangs waged in this Central American country under a state of emergency. But families of detainees and human rights organizations warn that in many cases they have no links to criminal organizations. CREDIT: National Civil Police

SAN SALVADOR, Aug 5 2022 (IPS) – The body of Walter Sandoval shows a number of dark bruises on his arms and knees, as well as lacerations on his left eye and on his head – signs that he suffered some kind of violence before dying in a Salvadoran prison, accused of being a gang member.


The evidence of the beating is clear in photographs that Walter’s father, Saúl Sandoval, showed to IPS.

Walter, 32, was one of those who died in Salvadoran prisons after being detained by the authorities in the massive raids that the government of Nayib Bukele launched at the end of March, under the protection of the decreed state of emergency and the administration’s fight against organized crime and gangs.

The young man, a farmer, died on Apr. 3, in the parking lot of the hospital in Sonsonate, a city in the west of the country where he was transferred, already dying according to the family, from the police station in Ahuachapán, a city in the department of the same name in western El Salvador.

He had been transferred to the police station after his Mar. 30 arrest in the Jardines neighborhood of the municipality of El Refugio, also in the department of Ahuachapán.

“They tortured him in the dungeons of the Ahuachapán police station,” his father told IPS.

He added that his son had been hanging out with friends, getting drunk. A few minutes later, a police patrol picked him up on charges of being a gang member, which the family vehemently told IPS was not true.

“He never received medical assistance, he died in the hospital parking lot,” the father added.

“They tortured him in the dungeons of the Ahuachapán police station. He didn’t receive medical assistance, he died in the hospital parking lot.” — Saúl Sandoval

He says the only explanation he has for why the police detained Walter is because “they wanted to get the day’s quota.” What he meant is that police officers are apparently supposed to arrest a specific number of gang members in exchange for benefits in their assigned workload.

Deaths like Walter’s, if the participation of police is confirmed, are the most violent and arbitrary expression of the human rights violations committed since the government began its plan of massive raids, in what it describes as an all-out war on gangs.

Since late March, the Salvadoran government has maintained a state of emergency that suspended several constitutional guarantees, in response to a sharp rise in homicides committed by gang members between Mar. 25 and 27.

In those three days, at least 87 people were killed by gang members, in a kind of revenge against the government for allegedly breaking an obscure under-the-table agreement with the gangs to keep homicide rates low.

The state of emergency has been in place since Mar. 27, extended each month by the legislature, which is largely dominated by the ruling New Ideas party. Since then, violent deaths have dropped to an average of three a day.

Among the constitutional rights suspended are the rights of association and assembly, although the government said it only applies to criminal groups that are meeting to organize crimes. It also restricts the right to defense and extends the period in which a person may be detained and brought before the courts, which is currently three days.

The government can also wiretap the communications of “terrorist groups”, meaning gangs, although it could already do so under ordinary laws.

After the state of emergency was declared, homicides dropped again to around two or three a day, and there are even days when none are reported.

But some 48,000 people have been arrested and remanded in custody, accused by the authorities of belonging to criminal gangs. And the number is growing day by day.

However, the families of detainees and human rights organizations complain that among those captured are people who had no links to the gangs, known as “maras” in El Salvador, which make up an army of a combined total of around 70,000 members.

On Jun. 2, rights watchdog Amnesty International stated in an official communiqué that “Under the current state of emergency, the Salvadoran authorities have committed massive human rights violations, including thousands of arbitrary detentions and violations of due process, as well as torture and ill-treatment, and at least 18 people have died in state custody.”

But President Bukele, far from being receptive to criticism, dismisses and stigmatizes the work of human rights groups, referring to their representatives as “criminals” and “freeloaders” who are more interested in defending the rights of gang members than those of their victims.

Walter Sandoval is one of the young men who have died with signs of torture in El Salvador's prisons under the state of emergency in force in the country since the end of March. The police captured him without any evidence linking him to gangs, said the young man's family - part of a pattern that has been documented by human rights organizations. CREDIT: Courtesy of the Sandoval family

Walter Sandoval is one of the young men who have died with signs of torture in El Salvador’s prisons under the state of emergency in force in the country since the end of March. The police captured him without any evidence linking him to gangs, said the young man’s family – part of a pattern that has been documented by human rights organizations. CREDIT: Courtesy of the Sandoval family

Silent deaths and torture

The local human rights organization Cristosal has documented nearly 2,500 cases of arrests which, according to the families, have been arbitrary, with no basis for their loved ones to have been detained under the state of emergency.

The organization has also monitored press reports and social networks and has carried out its own research to establish that, as of Jul. 28, some 65 people had died while detained in the country’s prisons or in police cells as part of the massive police raids.

Some of the deceased showed obvious signs of beatings and physical violence, as was the case with Walter and other cases that have been widely reported in the media.

The official reports of these deaths received by family members are vague and confusing, such as that of Julio César Mendoza Ramírez, 25, who died in a hospital in San Salvador, the country’s capital, on Jul. 15.

The official report stated that he had died of pulmonary edema, i.e., his lungs filled with fluid, but also stated that the case was “being studied.”

Suspicions that the deceased were victims of beatings and torture during their imprisonment are not ruled out by their relatives or by human rights organizations.

“The cause of death given to the relatives in the hospital sometimes differs from the legal medical examination, and that leads one to think that something is going on,” lawyer Zaira Navas, of Cristosal, told IPS.

She added: “There are also families who say they were told it was cardiac arrest, but the victims have bruises on their bodies, which is not compatible (with the official version).”

And in the face of doubts and accusations that beatings and torture are taking place under the watchful eye of the State, the authorities simply remain silent and do not carry out autopsies, for example, which would reveal what really happened.

Navas remarked that, even within the state of emergency, “the detentions are arbitrary” because the procedure followed is not legally justified and many people are detained simply because of telephone complaints from neighbors – with which other human rights defenders coincide.

Another problem is that among these 2,500 complaints by families, about 30 percent involve detainees who have chronic diseases or disabilities or were receiving medical or surgical treatment, according to Cristosal’s reports.

The prison staff do not allow family members of the sick detainees to bring their medication, although in a few rare cases they have authorized it.

“We have seen deaths because it is presumed that they have been tortured, beaten, etc., but there have also been deaths of people who have not been given the medication they need to take,” Henri Fino, executive director of the Foundation for Studies on the Application of Law (FESPAD), told IPS.

Regarding the dubious role played by the government’s Institute of Legal Medicine (IML), in charge of conducting the forensic examinations to inform families about the cause of deaths, Fino said that in his opinion it has no credibility.

Especially, he added, now that members of the so-called Military Health Battalion have been stationed since Jul. 4 at several IML offices, presumably to assist in various tasks, including forensic exams, given the shortage of staff.

“What collaboration can they (the military) provide, if they are not experts, and the only reason they are in the IML is to exercise oversight?” Fino said.

Media war

Some of the people who have died in jails or prisons, who were arrested under the state of emergency, were described by the local media as victims of arbitrary, illegal detentions, in contrast with Bukele’s propaganda war claiming that all the detainees are, in fact, gang members.

The press has highlighted the case of Elvin Josué Sánchez, 21, who died on Apr. 18 at the Izalco Prison located near the town of the same name in the department of Sonsonate in western El Salvador.

The media have referred to him as the “young musician”, because he had been learning to play the saxophone, and they have described him as a decent person who was a member of an evangelical church in the area.

But according to neighbors, Sánchez was well-known as an active gang member in his native El Carrizal, in the municipality of Santa Maria Ostuma, in the central department of La Paz.

“They saw him well-armed on farms in the area, along with other gang members, and he told the owners not to show up there anymore, or they would kill them,” a resident of that municipality, who asked not to be identified, told IPS.

Contradictions like this have strengthened local support for Bukele’s insinuations that the independent media are in favor of gang members and against the government’s actions to eradicate violence in the country.

In fact, opinion polls show that a majority of the population of 6.7 million support the president’s measures to crack down on the maras.

But even though Sánchez was recognized by neighbors as a gang member, his arrest should have been carried out following proper procedures and protocols, based on reliable information proving his affiliation to a criminal organization.

This is something the police do not usually do in these massive raids where it is impossible for them to have the evidence needed on each of the nearly 48,000 detainees.

Nor did the fact that he had been a gang member merit him being beaten to death, since his human rights should have been respected, said those interviewed by IPS.

  Source

U.S.-Latin America Immigration Agreement Raises more Questions than Answers

Active Citizens, Civil Society, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Featured, Headlines, Human Rights, Latin America & the Caribbean, Migration & Refugees, Population, Poverty & SDGs, Regional Categories

Migration & Refugees

A hundred Central American migrants were rescued from an overcrowded trailer truck in the Mexican state of Tabasco. It has been impossible to stop people from making the hazardous journey of thousands of kilometers to the United States due to the lack of opportunities in their countries of origin. CREDIT: Mesoamerican Migrant Movement

A hundred Central American migrants were rescued from an overcrowded trailer truck in the Mexican state of Tabasco. It has been impossible to stop people from making the hazardous journey of thousands of kilometers to the United States due to the lack of opportunities in their countries of origin. CREDIT: Mesoamerican Migrant Movement

SAN SALVADOR, Jul 19 2022 (IPS) – The immigration agreement reached in Los Angeles, California at the end of the Summit of the Americas, hosted by U.S. President Joe Biden, raises more questions than answers and the likelihood that once again there will be more noise than actual benefits for migrants, especially Central Americans.


And immigration was once again the main issue discussed at the Jul. 12 bilateral meeting between Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Biden at the White House.

At the meeting, López Obrador asked Biden to facilitate the entry of “more skilled” Mexican and Central American workers into the U.S. “to support” the economy and help curb irregular migration.

Central American analysts told IPS that it is generally positive that immigration was addressed at the June summit and that concrete commitments were reached. But they also agreed that much remains to be done to tackle the question of undocumented migration.

That is especially true considering that the leaders of the three Central American nations generating a massive flow of poor people who risk their lives to reach the United States, largely without papers, were absent from the meeting.

Just as the Ninth Summit of the Americas was getting underway on Jun. 6 in Los Angeles, an undocumented 15-year-old Salvadoran migrant began her journey alone to the United States, with New York as her final destination.

She left her native San Juan Opico, in the department of La Libertad in central El Salvador.

“We communicate every day, she tells me that she is in Tamaulipas, Mexico, and that everything is going well according to plan. They give them food and they are not mistreating her, but they don’t let her leave the safe houses,” Omar Martinez, the Salvadoran uncle of the migrant girl, whose name he preferred not to mention, told IPS.

She was able to make the journey because her mother, who is waiting for her in New York, managed to save the 15,000-dollar cost of the trip, led as always by a guide or “coyote”, as they are known in Central America, who in turn form part of networks in Guatemala and Mexico that smuggle people across the border between Mexico and the United States.

The meeting of presidents in Los Angeles “was marked by the issue of temporary jobs, and the presidents of key Central American countries were absent, so there was a vacuum in that regard,” researcher Silvia Raquec Cum, of Guatemala’s Pop No’j Association, told IPS.

In fact, neither the presidents of Honduras, Xiomara Castro, of Guatemala, Alejandro Giammattei, or El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, attended the conclave due to political friction with the United States, in a political snub that would have been hard to imagine just a few years ago.

Other Latin American presidents boycotted the Summit of the Americas as an act of protest, such as Mexico’s López Obrador, precisely because Washington did not invite the leaders of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, which it considers dictatorships.

 From rural communities like this one, the village of Huisisilapa in the municipality of San Pablo Tacachico in central El Salvador, where there are few possibilities of finding work, many people set out for the United States, often without documents, in search of the "American dream". CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

From rural communities like this one, the village of Huisisilapa in the municipality of San Pablo Tacachico in central El Salvador, where there are few possibilities of finding work, many people set out for the United States, often without documents, in search of the “American dream”. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

More temporary jobs

Promoting more temporary jobs is one of the commitments of the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection adopted at the Summit of the Americas and signed by some twenty heads of state on Jun. 10 in that U.S. city.

“Temporary jobs are an important issue, but let’s remember that economic questions are not the only way to address migration. Not all migration is driven by economic reasons, there are also situations of insecurity and other causes,” Raquec Cum emphasized.

Moreover, these temporary jobs do not allow the beneficiaries to stay and settle in the country; they have to return to their places of origin, where their lives could be at risk.

“It is good that they (the temporary jobs) are being created and are expanding, but we must be aware that the beneficiaries are only workers, they are not allowed to settle down, and there are people who for various reasons no longer want to return to their countries,” researcher Danilo Rivera, of the Central American Institute of Social and Development Studies, told IPS from the Guatemalan capital.

The Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection states that it “seeks to mobilize the entire region around bold actions that will transform our approach to managing migration in the Americas.”

The Declaration is based on four pillars: stability and assistance for communities; expansion of legal pathways; humane migration management; and coordinated emergency response.

The focus on expanding legal pathways includes Canada, which plans to receive more than 50,000 agricultural workers from Mexico, Guatemala and the Caribbean in 2022.

While Mexico will expand the Border Worker Card program to include 10,000 to 20,000 more beneficiaries, it is also offering another plan to create job opportunities in Mexico for 15,000 to 20,000 workers from Guatemala each year.

The United States, for its part, is committed to a 65 million dollar pilot program to help U.S. farmers hire temporary agricultural workers, who receive H-2A visas.

“It is necessary to rethink governments’ capacity to promote regular migration based on temporary work programs when it is clear that there is not enough labor power to cover the great needs in terms of employment demands,” said Rivera from Guatemala.

He added that despite the effort put forth by the presidents at the summit, there is no mention at all of the comprehensive reform that has been offered for several years to legalize some 11 million immigrants who arrived in the United States without documents.

A reform bill to that effect is currently stalled in the U.S. Congress.

Many of the 11 million undocumented migrants in the United States come from Central America, especially Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, as well as Mexico.

While the idea of immigration reform is not moving forward in Congress, more than 60 percent of the undocumented migrants have lived in the country for over a decade and have more than four million U.S.-born children, the New York Times reported in January 2021.

This population group represents five percent of the workforce in the agriculture, construction and hospitality sectors, the report added.

 Despite the risks involved in undertaking the irregular, undocumented journey to the United States, many Salvadorans continue to make the trip, and many are deported, such as the people seen in this photo taken at a registration center after they were sent back to San Salvador. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Despite the risks involved in undertaking the irregular, undocumented journey to the United States, many Salvadorans continue to make the trip, and many are deported, such as the people seen in this photo taken at a registration center after they were sent back to San Salvador. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

More political asylum

The Declaration also includes another important component of the migration agreement: a commitment to strengthen political asylum programs.

For example, among other agreements in this area, Canada will increase the resettlement of refugees from the Americas and aims to receive up to 4,000 people by 2028, the Declaration states.

For its part, the United States will commit to resettle 20,000 refugees from the Americas during fiscal years 2023 and 2024.

“What I took away from the summit is the question of creating a pathway to address the issue of refugees in the countries of origin,” Karen Valladares, of the National Forum for Migration in Honduras, told IPS from Tegucigalpa.

She added: “In the case of Honduras, we are having a lot of extra-regional and extra-continental population traffic.”

Valladares said that while it is important “to enable refugee processes for people passing through our country, we must remember that Honduras is not seen as a destination, but as a transit country.”

Raquec Cum, of the Pop No’j Association in Guatemala, said “They were also talking about the extension of visas for refugees, but the bottom line is how they are going to carry out this process; there are specific points that were signed and to which they committed themselves, but the how is what needs to be developed.”

Meanwhile, the Salvadoran teenager en route to New York has told her uncle that she expects to get there in about a month.

“She left because she wants to better herself, to improve her situation, because in El Salvador it is expensive to live,” said Omar, the girl’s uncle.

“I have even thought about leaving the country, but I suffer from respiratory problems and could not run a lot or swim, for example, and sometimes you have to run away from the migra (border patrol),” he said.

  Source

Smelter Finally Closes Due to Extreme Pollution in Chilean Bay

Active Citizens, Civil Society, Editors’ Choice, Environment, Featured, Headlines, Latin America & the Caribbean, Regional Categories, TerraViva United Nations

Environment

The municipality of Puchuncaví in central Chile turns greens after days of rain, but next to it are the smokestacks of the industries located in this development pole that turned this town and the neighboring town of Quintero into "sacrifice zones", with the emission of pollutants that damaged the environment and the health of local residents, which will finally begin to be dismantled. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS - The smelter is an outdated facility that has suffered repeated episodes of industrial pollution, one of the chemicals causing the deteriorating health of the inhabitants of Quintero and Puchuncaví

The municipality of Puchuncaví in central Chile turns greens after days of rain, but next to it are the smokestacks of the industries located in this development pole that turned this town and the neighboring town of Quintero into “sacrifice zones”, with the emission of pollutants that damaged the environment and the health of local residents, which will finally begin to be dismantled. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

QUINTERO, Chile, Jul 4 2022 (IPS) – A health crisis that in 20 days left 500 children poisoned in the adjacent municipalities of Quintero and Puchuncaví triggered the decision to close the Ventanas Smelter, in a first concrete step towards putting an end to a so-called “sacrifice zone” in Chile.


The measure was supported by President Gabriel Boric who reiterated his determination to move towards a green government.

The decision by the state-owned National Copper Corporation (Codelco), the world’s leading copper producer, was announced on Jun. 17, following a temporary stoppage of the plant eight days earlier, and was opposed only by the powerful Federation of Copper Workers.

The union reacted by calling a strike, which ended after two days, when the leaders agreed to discuss an organized closure of the smelter, which will take place within a maximum of five years. The smelting and refining facility will be replaced by another modern plant at a site yet to be determined.

The smelter is an outdated facility that has suffered repeated episodes of sulfur dioxide pollution, one of the chemicals causing the deteriorating health of the inhabitants of Quintero, a city of 26,000, and Puchuncaví, population 19,000.

In the last three years Codelco invested 152 million dollars to modernize the smelter but without success, admitted Codelco’s president, Máximo Pacheco.

Pacheco argued that the closure was due to “the climate of uncertainty that has existed for decades, which is very bad for the workers, their families and the community.”

Sara Larraín, executive director of the non-governmental organization Sustainable Chile, said the definitive closure of the plant does justice.

“It is the first step for Quintero and Puchuncaví to get out of the category of damage that is called a ‘sacrifice zone’ where for decades the emission standards have been exceeded,” she told IPS.

“Sacrifice zones” are areas that have suffered excessive environmental damage due to industrial pollution. Residents of poor communities in these areas bear a disproportionate burden of pollution, toxic waste and heavy industry.

The back of the Ventanas Smelter reveals the poor operating conditions of the copper processing facility in Chile, which will be replaced by a new one within a maximum of five years at an as yet undefined site. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

The back of the Ventanas Smelter reveals the poor operating conditions of the copper processing facility in Chile, which will be replaced by a new one within a maximum of five years at an as yet undefined site. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

The two adjacent municipalities, 156 kilometers west of Santiago, qualify as a sacrifice zone, as do Mejillones, Huasco and Tocopilla, in the north, and Coronel in southern Chile, because the right to live in a pollution-free environment is violated in these areas.

In Quintero and Puchuncaví the main source of sulfur dioxide is the Ventanas Smelter, responsible for 61.8 percent of emissions of this element, causing widespread health problems.

Fisherman-diver forced to move away returns to Quintero

Carlos Vega, a fishermen’s union leader in Quintero, is the third generation of divers in his family.

“My grandfather, a fisherman, taught me how to make fishing nets. He had a restaurant on the coast,” he told IPS, visibly moved, adding that his two brothers are also fishermen and divers, who catch shellfish among the rocks along the coast.

“Fishing was profitable here. We were doing well and making money,” he said.

He added that people are well-organized in the area. “At one time we were the largest producer” of seafood and fish for central Chile, “because we had management and harvesting areas. But they had to close because of the pollution,” he said, describing the poverty that befell the local fishers in the late 1980s.

Then the health authorities found copper, cadmium and arsenic in the local seafood and banned its harvest. As a result, the small fishermen’s bay where they keep their boats and sell part of their catch lost their customers.

The crisis forced him to move to the south where he worked for 15 years as a professional diver in a salmon company.

Carlos Vega, a fisherman, diver and trade union leader, and Kata Alonso, spokeswoman for Women of Sacrifice Zones in Resistance, pose for a photo in the bay of Quintero, during the celebrations in that town and in neighboring Puchuncaví for the announcement of the definitive closure of the Ventanas Smelter of the state-owned Codelco copper company, whose polluting emissions have damaged the local environment and made local residents sick for decades. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

Carlos Vega, a fisherman, diver and trade union leader, and Kata Alonso, spokeswoman for Women of Sacrifice Zones in Resistance, pose for a photo in the bay of Quintero, during the celebrations in that town and in neighboring Puchuncaví for the announcement of the definitive closure of the Ventanas Smelter of the state-owned Codelco copper company, whose polluting emissions have damaged the local environment and made local residents sick for decades. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

Today, back in Quintero, with two sons who are engineers and a daughter who is a teacher, he continues to dive, albeit sporadically. He participates along with 27 fishermen in the management area granted to the north of the sacrifice zone, where they extract shellfish quotas two or three times a year.

“The social fabric was broken down here, that is the hardest thing that has happened to us,” said Vega.

Codelco is not the only polluter

Codelco is the main exporter in Chile, a long narrow country of 19.1 million people sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountains where the big mines are located. In 2021 it produced 1.7 million tons of copper and its pre-tax income totaled nearly 7.4 billion dollars.

“Chile is the leading global copper producer and the world is going to become more electric every day,” said Pacheco. “And copper is the conductor par excellence, there is no substitute. We have to be ready for copper to be increasingly in demand in this energy transition.”

The president of Codelco emphasized that the wealth does not lie in exporting concentrate, which has 26 percent copper, but anodes with 99 percent purity, “and for that we need a smelter and a refinery.”

Young residents of Quintero and Puchuncaví came out in a drum line to celebrate the closure of the Ventanas Smelter and participate in a Festival for Life which lasted eight hours and was joined by a hundred local and national artists. Thousands of people gathered in the square which is on the edge of Quintero on Saturday, Jun. 25. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

Young residents of Quintero and Puchuncaví came out in a drum line to celebrate the closure of the Ventanas Smelter and participate in a Festival for Life which lasted eight hours and was joined by a hundred local and national artists. Thousands of people gathered in the square which is on the edge of Quintero on Saturday, Jun. 25. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

But the smelter, he explained, must be modern and not like Ventanas, which only captures 95 percent of the gases released. In the last three years, Codelco has lost 50 million dollars in the Ventanas smelter, which has a production scale of 420,000 tons. A modern Flash furnace produces 1.5 million tons and captures 99.8 percent of the gases.

The Ventanas Smelter employs 348 people and another 400 in associated companies. Half of them do not live in the area but in Viña del Mar, Villa Alemana or Quilpué, towns that are also in the region of Valparaíso, but are located far from the pollution.

The smelter is part of an industrial cluster that includes 16 companies.

After the latest health crisis, the authorities decreed contingency plans in plants and maritime terminals of six companies for emitting volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and applied an Atmospheric Prevention and Decontamination Plan.

Four coal-fired thermoelectric plants also pollute the area, one of which was definitively closed in December 2020 and another that was to be closed last May, although the measure was postponed.

According to environmentalist Larraín, when the smelter and the four thermoelectric plants are closed “better standards can be achieved, at least with respect to sulfur dioxide and heavy metals,” in Quintero and Puchuncaví.

View from the road of the Ventanas Smelter, in central Chile, which has been temporarily shut down since Jun. 9 and whose antiquated facilities will be permanently closed in a maximum of five years. They are adjacent to populated areas that have been turned into so-called "sacrifice zones" where local residents periodically suffer environmental and health emergencies due to sulfur dioxide fumes. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

View from the road of the Ventanas Smelter, in central Chile, which has been temporarily shut down since Jun. 9 and whose antiquated facilities will be permanently closed in a maximum of five years. They are adjacent to populated areas that have been turned into so-called “sacrifice zones” where local residents periodically suffer environmental and health emergencies due to sulfur dioxide fumes. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

The plan to continue decontaminating

Other pollutants are VOCs linked to the refineries of the state-owned oil company Empresa Nacional de Petróleo (Enap) and the private company Gasmar.

Kata Alonso, spokeswoman for the Mujeres en Zona de Sacrificio en Resistencia (Women in Sacrifice Zone in Resistance) collective, told IPS that “the prevention plan is good so that people don’t continue to be poisoned, so that they can breathe better, and so that the companies that pollute can close their doors, instead of the schools.

“There are companies that were built before the environmental law was passed that have not taken health measures. So what we are asking is for each company to be evaluated, and those that do not comply with the regulations must leave,” she said.

The repeated crises occur despite the fact that Chile’s environmental standards are below those of the World Health Organization (WHO).

For level 10 particulate matter, the mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets in the air, the ceiling in Chile is 150 milligrams per cubic meter (m3) and the WHO ceiling is 50.

For particulate matter 2.5 (fine inhalable particles), in Chile the limit is 50 milligrams per m3, while the WHO guideline is 25. And the Chilean ceiling for sulfur dioxide is 250 milligrams per m3 compared to the WHO’s limit of 20.

Three years ago, the Chilean Pediatric Society and the Chilean Medical Association requested that Chile raise its emission standards to WHO levels.

Part of the audience at the Festival for Life, which celebrated the closure of a copper smelter, that along with 15 other industrial plants turned the municipalities of Quintero and Puchuncaví into "sacrifice zones" in central Chile. Performances by musicians and other artists from around the country were interspersed with messages calling for a life free of pollution in the area. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

Part of the audience at the Festival for Life, which celebrated the closure of a copper smelter, that along with 15 other industrial plants turned the municipalities of Quintero and Puchuncaví into “sacrifice zones” in central Chile. Performances by musicians and other artists from around the country were interspersed with messages calling for a life free of pollution in the area. CREDIT: Orlando Milesi / IPS

Alonso the activist said that “my two neighbors died of cancer, whoever you ask in Puchuncaví has relatives who died of cancer. Today people are dying younger, breast and uterine cancer have increased in young women, and there are so many miscarriages.

“The statistic we have is that one in four children in Puchuncaví are born with severe neurological problems, down syndrome, autism. Here in Quintero there are two special education schools and many children with learning disabilities,” she said.

Larraín called for “government support for those who have been affected by irreversible diseases, asthma, lung cancer and others that have been proven to be caused by coal combustion and heavy metals.”

The Catholic University conducted a study using data on hospitalizations and mortality in Tocopilla, Mejillones, Huasco, Quintero and Puchuncaví.

“The rates for cardiovascular disease associated with industrial processes are clear. In some cases they are 900 percent higher. Calling them sacrifice zones is real, it refers to impacts that are occurring today,” said Larraín.

The environmentalist said it would be difficult to revive Quintero Bay “because it has a gigantic layer of coal at the bottom, dead phyto and zooplankton because water is used for cooling in industrial processes and is dumped back out with antialgaecides that kill marine life.”

She believes, however, that “over the years, the capacity for regeneration is possible, even in agriculture that has been lost due to sulfur dioxide emissions. There may also be a recovery in fishing and tourism.”

But Larraín demanded “a just transition that restores healthy levels and regenerates ecosystems so that local communities can sustain their economy in a healthy and ecologically balanced environment.”

  Source

Poor Families Clash over Water with Real Estate Consortium in El Salvador

Active Citizens, Civil Society, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Environment, Featured, Headlines, Human Rights, Latin America & the Caribbean, Population, Poverty & SDGs, Regional Categories, TerraViva United Nations, Water & Sanitation

Water & Sanitation

Alex Leiva, holding his baby girl, uses the water he managed to collect in barrels at 4:00 a.m., the only time the service is provided in Lotificación Praderas, in the canton of Cabañas, on the outskirts of the municipality of Apopa, north of the Salvadoran capital. The families of this region are fighting in defense of water, against an urban development project for wealthy families that threatens the water resources in the area. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Alex Leiva, holding his baby girl, uses the water he managed to collect in barrels at 4:00 a.m., the only time the service is provided in Lotificación Praderas, in the canton of Cabañas, on the outskirts of the municipality of Apopa, north of the Salvadoran capital. The families of this region are fighting in defense of water, against an urban development project for wealthy families that threatens the water resources in the area. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

APOPA, El Salvador , Jun 6 2022 (IPS) – Alex Leiva woke up at 4:00 a.m. to perform a key task for his family’s survival in the Salvadoran village where he lives: filling several barrels with the water that falls from the tap only at that early hour every other day.


If he does not collect water between 4:00 and 5:00 AM, he will not have another opportunity to fill the barrels for another two days.

“That’s what I have to do. Sometimes I manage to fill three barrels. The service is provided every other day,” Leiva, 32, a video producer, told IPS.

“It’s difficult to be in a situation like this, where the water supply is so inefficient,” he added.

The water is not provided by the government’s National Administration of Aqueducts and Sewers (Anda) but by the Water Administration Board (Acasap).

In El Salvador there are at least 3,000 of these boards, community associations that play an essential role in the supply and management of water resources in rural areas and the peripheries of cities, in the face of the State’s failure to provide these areas with water.

Leiva lives in Lotificación Praderas, in the Cabañas canton, on the outskirts of the municipality of Apopa, north of the country’s capital, San Salvador.

This northern area covering several municipalities has been in conflict in recent years since residents of these communities began to fight against an urban development project by one of the country’s most powerful families, the Dueñas.

The Dueñas clan’s power dates back to the days of the so-called coffee oligarchy, which emerged in the mid-19th century.

Ciudad Valle El Angel is the name of the residential development to be built in this area on 350 hectares, and which will require some 20 million liters of water per day to supply the families that decide to buy one of the 8,000 homes.

The first feasibility permits granted by Anda to the consortium date back to 2015.

The homes are designed for upper middle-class families who decide to leave behind the chaos of San Salvador and to live with all the comforts of modern life, with water 24 hours a day, in the midst of poor communities that lack a steady water supply.

“There are people in my community who manage to fill only one barrel because there isn’t enough water pressure,” said Leiva, the father of a five-year-old boy and a nine-month-old baby girl.

Valle El Angel is an extensive region located on the slopes of the San Salvador volcano, in territories shared by municipalities north of the capital, including Apopa, Nejapa and Opico.

A general view of Parcelación El Ángel, in the Joya Galana canton, in the municipality of Apopa, near San Salvador. The community is fighting to defend the few natural resources that survive in the area, including a stream that originates in the micro-basin of the Chacalapa River. Water in the area is scarce, while Salvadoran authorities endorse an upscale real estate project that will use millions of liters per day. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

A general view of Parcelación El Ángel, in the Joya Galana canton, in the municipality of Apopa, near San Salvador. The community is fighting to defend the few natural resources that survive in the area, including a stream that originates in the micro-basin of the Chacalapa River. Water in the area is scarce, while Salvadoran authorities endorse an upscale real estate project that will use millions of liters per day. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Unfair justice

Sociedad Dueñas Limitada, the consortium managing the urban development project, received the definitive green light to begin construction: a thumbs-up from the Constitutional court, which on Apr. 29, 2022 rejected an unconstitutionality lawsuit filed in October 2019 by environmental organizations and communities in northern San Salvador.

The lawsuit was against a dubious agreement signed in 2016 between that company and Anda, which manages water in the country. The deal granted the project 240 liters of water per second – that is, about 20 million liters a day.

The consortium intends to dig eight wells in the area. Water will be extracted from the San Juan Opico aquifer, as well as from shallower groundwater from Apopa and Quezaltepeque.

“These agreements open the door to this type of illegal concessions handed over to private companies…it is a situation that is not being addressed from a comprehensive perspective that meets the needs of the people, but rather from a mercantilist perspective,” lawyer Ariela González told IPS.

She is part of the Foundation of Studies for the Application of Law (Fespad), a member of the Water Forum, which brings together some twenty civil organizations that have been fighting for fair and equitable distribution of water in the country.

González added: “It is our public institutions that legalize this dispossession of environmental assets, through these mechanisms that allow the companies to whitewash the environmental impact studies.”

The organizations and local communities argue that water is a human right, for the benefit of the community, and also insisted in the lawsuit that the aquifers are part of the subsoil, property of the State.

Therefore, if any company was to be granted any benefit from that subsoil, the concession could have to be endorsed by the legislature, which did not happen.

Sara García and Martina Vides are members of an ecofeminist collective that has been fighting for five years to prevent the construction of a large residential project in the area, Ciudad Valle El Ángel, owned by one of the most powerful families in El Salvador. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Sara García and Martina Vides are members of an ecofeminist collective that has been fighting for five years to prevent the construction of a large residential project in the area, Ciudad Valle El Ángel, owned by one of the most powerful families in El Salvador. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

The resolution handed down by the Constitutional chamber of the Supreme Court comes at a time when people have lost trust in the Constitutional court in this Central American country of 6.7 million people.

The five Constitutional court magistrates were appointed without following the regular procedure on May 1, 2021, when the new legislature was installed, controlled by lawmakers from President Nayib Bukele’s party, Nuevas Ideas, which holds 56 out of 84 seats.

“This government continues to benefit big capital and destroy local territories,” Sara García, of the ecofeminist group Kawoc Women’s Collective and the Let’s Save the Valle El Ángel movement, which forms part of the Water Forum, told IPS.

García´s fellow activist Martina Vides added: “We want protection for the aquifers and to prevent the felling of trees.”

Both women spoke to IPS on a rainy gray afternoon on the last day of May, in the Parcelación El Ángel, where they live, in the Joya Galana canton, also in the municipality of Apopa, which is in the middle of the impact zone.

A short distance away is the river that provides water to this and other communities, which originates in the micro-watershed of the Chacalapa River. Water is supplied under a community management scheme organized by the local water board.

Vides pays six dollars a month for the water service, although she only receives running water three or four days a week.

According to official figures, in this country 96.3 percent of urban households have access to piped water, but the proportion drops to 78.4 percent in the countryside, where 10.8 percent are supplied by well water and 10.7 percent by other means.

Since the Ciudad Valle El Angel project began to be planned, environmentalists and community representatives have been protesting against it with street demonstrations and activities because it will negatively impact the area’s environment, especially the aquifers.

The struggle for water in El Salvador has been going on for a long time, with activists demanding that it be recognized as a human right, with access for the entire population, because the country is one of the hardest hit by the climate crisis, especially the so-called Dry Corridor.

For more than 10 years, environmental and social collectives have been pushing for a water law, reaching preliminary agreements with past governments. But since the populist Bukele came to power, the progress made in this direction has been undone.

In December 2021, the legislature approved a General Water Resources Law, which excluded the already pre-agreed social proposals, although it recognizes the human right to water and establishes that the water supply will not be privatized. However, this is not enforced in practice, as demonstrated by the Dueñas’ urban development project.

A vendor of a traditional ice cream in El Salvador, made with shaved ice bathed in fruit syrup, waits for customers on one of the streets of Parcelación El Ángel, in the municipality of Apopa, north of the capital. The locality is one of the epicenters where poor families have been organizing to block a residential development project, which will affect the local water supply and worsen the water shortage in the area. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

A vendor of a traditional ice cream in El Salvador, made with shaved ice bathed in fruit syrup, waits for customers on one of the streets of Parcelación El Ángel, in the municipality of Apopa, north of the capital. The locality is one of the epicenters where poor families have been organizing to block a residential development project, which will affect the local water supply and worsen the water shortage in the area. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Not the only one

The residential development project is neither the first nor the only one in the area.

Residential complexes of this type have already been built in that area for the upper middle class, thanks to investments made by other wealthy families in the country, such as the Poma family.

And the same type of agreements have been reached with these other companies, in which the consortiums receive an endorsement to obtain water for their projects, said González.

The same thing has happened in the surroundings of the Cordillera del Bálsamo, south of the capital, where residential projects have been developed around municipalities such as Zaragoza, close to the beaches of the Pacific Ocean.

In Valle El Ángel there is also at least one company whose main raw material is water. This is Industrias La Constancia, which owns the Coca Cola brand in the country and other brands of juices and energy drinks, located in the municipality of Nejapa.

González, the Fespad lawyer, said that there should be a moratorium in the country in order to stop, for a time, this type of investment that threatens the country’s environmental assets, especially water.

But until that happens, if it ever does, and until the water supply improves, Alex Leiva will continue to get up at 4 a.m. every other day to fill his three barrels.

“What can we do? We have no choice,” he said.

  Source